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3 Resolutions for Instructional Design and Development

Monday, January 22, 2018

New Year’s resolutions? Yes, this is the time of year for considering what you’d like to change and improve. You may be considering what you can do that is new and creative, but I propose that this be a year of going back to basics. With that, here are three fundamental resolutions for instructional designers and developers.

Opt for Simplification

There are so many new technologies out there now, from development tools to innovative delivery platforms. It is no wonder that we can get distracted! What if we spent some time this year taking a look at the technology we already have within the organization. Often the best solution is the most simple.

For example, a simple job aid or a well-crafted communication may be a better option than a lengthy e-learning module. Rather than printing (and re-printing) lengthy training manuals, an interactive PDF or e-book can be an effective tool to supplement your classroom training.

Also, don’t overlook readily available technology, such as email platforms, as a potential delivery tool. This doesn’t mean spamming employees with lengthy emails. (That’s why so many of us have come to loathe email in the first place!) However, it does mean that you could use timed email for new hires as a way to onboard them a bit each day to the organization.

Design for Everyone

Fortunately, accessibility is becoming a much more common topic in the instructional design space. Unfortunately, practitioners often look at accessibility as an exception. They either “have to do it” in their organization, or they don’t. Why do we look at accessibility this way? If we truly want to support our entire audience, ensuring that everyone can learn, we have to look at our solutions differently.


I encourage you to really explore the variety of cases where accessibility is critical. A frequent accessibility advocate, Brian Dusablon at Learning Ninjas, reminds us that we are all disabled at some point in our lives. Whether it is a decline in vision as we get older, a broken limb, or some other temporary to permanent impairment, we are highly likely to experience disability first-hand. Remembering this can help us advocate for designing for all as the rule, rather than the exception. I have found that his curated accessibility resources are helpful to learn more about this space.

Measure What Matters

For too long, we have taken the easy way out by creating multiple choice quizzes to test learners. This doesn’t mean that quizzes are bad, but the way that we use the data almost always gives it more credence than it should. How can we say that someone can put information into practice in real situations when they will rarely be presented with a list of pre-formed options as they are in quizzes?

I suggest that we take this three-step approach to start measuring what matters:

  • Identify the changes you want to see as a result of the training.
  • Determine how you can capture that information.
  • Consider new approaches to capturing data.

Yes, I recognize that this appears basic. However, I think you’d be surprised if you apply this activity to your own organizational training projects. Here is a template to get you started. From there, you can learn about some of the new, innovative ways to capture interaction data. For example, xAPI and cmi5 are both industry standards that are important to learn now.

Ready to resolve to simplify, design for everyone, and commit to measuring what matters? I suggest checking out the following workshops and sessions at the upcoming 2018 ATD TechKnowledge Conference:

About the Author

Sarah Gilbert specializes in training strategy, design, and development at meLearning Solutions. In her PHII Academy director role at the Task Force for Global Health, she leads a team to create global solutions for public health informatics training challenges.

Sarah is an ATD facilitator (Mobile Learning Certificate and Essentials of Mobile Development using Adobe Captivate). She also serves on the Greater Atlanta Chapter of ATD executive board and board of directors as 2015 president.

Sarah's work has been published in The Book of Road-Tested Activities (2011), 68 Tips for eLearning Engagement and Interactivity (2013), TD magazine, and various other training and workforce publications. She regularly speaks at conferences and business events on the practical application of learning technology.

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I know the Measurement & Evaluation Plan template will come in VERY handy. Thank you for including this in the article - much appreciated!
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Thank you for 3 great reminders to keep our learning, learner-centered!
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